11 months ago


Barriers to Pet-Friendly

Barriers to Pet-Friendly Housing – the Provincial Approach Both the City of Vancouver and the BC SPCA have lobbied for reform to the RTA, but these efforts have been unable to overturn the opposition from the powerful landlord lobby 32 . Reform efforts target section 18 of the RTA which allows landlords to prohibit any pets from rental units 33 . Change to section 18 would be an important first step towards the model used in Ontario, the only Canadian jurisdiction which has banned “no pet” clauses from tenancy agreements 34 . Landlords can still evict a tenant through an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board if pets “substantially interfered with reasonable enjoyment of the residential complex,” “cause a serious allergic reaction,” or are “inherently dangerous” 35 . Consequently, similar reform to the RTA would not radically displace a landlord’s ability to manage their property. However, it does prevent blanket bans on pets. Tracy Heffernan, lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario, notes that there have been “very few landlord tenant decisions relating to problems with pets since the provision was enacted in 1990” 32 Bennet, supra. 33 RTA., supra.; With the exception of dogs certified under s. 6 of the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act, [SBC 2015] c 17. 34 Residential Tenancies Act, SO 2006, c. 17 (“Ontario RTA”), s. 14. 35 Animal Justice, “No Pet” Provision Void – What Does This Mean?” (6 April 2015), online: Animal Justice .; Ontario RTA, supra., s. 76. which is suggestive of the successfulness of such a model 36 . However, not all housing is managed by the RTA and reform to that Act alone would not be enough 37 . Additionally, larger scale change to the Province’s housing framework is required to improve the circumstances of pet owners and their companion animals. On a national level, Canada’s housing system relies almost exclusively on the market mechanism for the provision, allocation, and maintenance of housing. This is a problem for households too poor to pay market rents for housing appropriate to their needs. These households generate a “social need” for housing rather than a “market demand” for it. A housing system based on the market mechanism cannot adequately – if at all – respond to the social need 38 . The housing model employed by British Columbia does not deviate from this. This is exemplified by one of the province’s key strategies in regards to housing support – rental subsidies. Rental subsidies are provided to lowincome British Columbians according to their income and the number of people in their household 39 . These subsidies make up a key component of “Housing 36 Melanson, supra. 37 RTA, supra.: a full list of housing which is not covered by the Act is provided under s. 4. 38 J. David Hulchanski, “What Factors Shape Canadian Housing Policy? The Intergovernmental Role in Canada’s Housing System” in Robert Young and Christian Leuprecht, Municipal-Federal-Provincial Relations in Canada, (1985), online: Canada: The State of the Federation (“Hulchanski”), pg 223. 39 BC Housing, “Subsidized Housing,” (2017), online: BC Housing Page 6 of 11

Matters,” BC’s “progressive” housing strategy and are celebrated by the province for giving families “flexibility to choose where they live” 40 . In practice, it allows the British Columbia to remain detached from housing issues by continuing to let the market dictate the quality and availability of housing. This keeps decision making power over whether or not housing should be pet-friendly in the hands of property owners as opposed to “renters – tenants whose income (and lack of wealth) cannot generate effective market demand” 41 . The non-market housing which does exist in the province includes housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and some low income families 42 . 90% of this housing is operated by non-profit organizations as opposed to the province 43 . Residents of non-market housing face their own set of barriers to accessing pet-friendly homes and “while its hard for most pet owners to find a rental, those in subsidized housing often face blanket bans” 44 . For advocates like Prowse, blanket pet bans are essentially telling BC’s most vulnerable residents, “you’re looking either at having a home or having your pet” 45 . Without involvement from the province to remove these bans, residents of non-market housing are essentially in the same situation as those in rental housing. Their ability to have a companion animal in their home with them is entirely subject to the determination of their particular housing provider. Whether residents and advocates are dealing with housing providers or private landlords, the fundamental challenge is the same: the financial investment in a piece of property outweighs the value of providing adequate housing to those who benefit from animal companionship. David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, believes that allowing pets or not should be “a business decision on the part of the [property] owner” 46 . Hutniak further believes that taking away a landlord’s ability to enforce a “no pet” clause or a pet bans “is really quite unfair... The owner of the property should have some rights too” 47 . In a city in which housing advocates are increasingly raising awareness in regard to the vulnerability of tenants relative to landlords, it is hard to take Hutniak’s accusations of unfairness seriously 48 . However, his words speak to an enduring public conception of housing: Although many Canadians refer to the health-care system or the social-welfare system, few refer to the housing system. In most housing discussions in Canada, people generally refer to the housing market – which implies and has the image of a non-governmental activity. 49 40 Housing Matters BC, “Housing Strategy for British Columbia: A Foundation for Strong Communities,” (January 2014), online: British Columbia (“Housing Matters”), pg 4. 41 Hulchanski, supra., pg 227. 42 Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, “Subsidized Housing,” (2016), online: Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre 43 Housing Matters, supra., 7 44 Little, supra. 45 Little, supra. 46 Melanson, supra. 47 Melanson, ibid. 48 Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, “Metro Vancouver landlords sidestepping rules in hot real estate market,” (5 August 2016), online: Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre ; Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre, “Renters need better protections in wild Vancouver markett,” (10 August 2016), online: Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre 49 Hulchanski, supra., pg 225. Page 7 of 15 11

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